Book Review – Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

Delivering happinessDelivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh is part biography and business memoir as it discusses aspects of Tony’s life and his business ventures especially those that have to do with Zappos, the online shoe company which Tony is a part of, which was later purchased by Amazon. The book starts out outlining parts of Tony’s early life especially his education and his business exploits when he was young. After leaving university Tony would start a business called LinkExchange which was bought by Microsoft making him a lot of money. With the money Tony set up an investment fund which was how he came across Zappos, an online shoe company he invested in and later joined as CEO. Zappos was a risky bet for Tony, as he put almost every penny he owned into the company, including selling his personal possessions to fund the company. It was a company almost destined to fail, but Tony stuck with it, helping to build up the value of the company which would later be purchased for over a billion dollars by Amazon.

The book holds many lessons for business leaders. For entrepreneurs, Tony’s shows that you should never stop trying. His experience outlines how challenging it can be to build a successful business, but also teaches us about the importance of persistence. For  other business leaders, the greatest lesson here is that of choosing a focus and sticking with it. Tony and team made Zappos unique by creating an outstanding culture of customer service. That was their focus. While there were other companies that were in business similar to Zappos, they couldn’t match Zappos’s customer service. And it was mainly that culture that led to Amazon buying the company.

Business leaders reading this book should pay particular attention to the part in the book where Tony writes about how the culture at Zappos was developed. He goes into details about the ten core values of the company, but a very interesting aspect of developing the company’s culture is their culture book. The culture book was created when an email was sent out to every employee to ask for their uncensored view of the company. All replies from the employees, both positive and negative were included in the book, which is now the company’s culture book. A copy of the book is given to every new employee. The culture book is updated on an annual basis.

Overall this book is enjoyable and easy to read, but at the same time includes some crucial lessons that business leaders will find beneficial. My main lesson from the book was the importance of great customer service. A business or organisation that makes customer service a focus will always get the attention of customers.

From each of these books I will be curating one to three lessons and publishing them as a pack at the end of each month so look out for those lessons. The three lessons I have learnt from the book which I shall be writing a learning point summary on are:

  1. How to strenghten your culture with a culture book
  2. Using a focus to differentiate your business
  3. The importance of being transparent

Book Review – The Power of a Positive NO by William Ury

untitledThe Power of a Positive No, by William Ury is a book that deals with an aspect of life that most of us face almost on a daily basis, how to say no to people confidently. It is amazing that a book covering 257 pages can be written about how to say a single word, but those 257 pages are needed. So if you struggle with saying no to certain requests then this book is for you. The book is divided into three parts titled:

  1. Prepare
  2. Deliver
  3. Follow through

Each of these sections has three chapters, adding up to nine chapters in total. The first part of the book, Prepare, will help you to prepare to say no by first saying yes to yourself. It advices us to uncover our yes by identifying why we need to say no in the first place. It also shows us how to prepare confidently to say no with conviction.

The second part, Deliver, shows us how to actually say no. It splits saying no into three parts by telling us to first express our own yes by letting people know why we are saying no, then assertively say no and finally end with a yes, which is a proposal for an alternative solution.

The final part, Follow through, advices us not to back down from our no. This is because even after saying no, we may still be pressured into saying yes instead. Some key strategies on how to stay true to our no are discussed.

This is a book I thoroughly enjoyed because it deals with an area that I personally find challenging. But also it has a lot of other lessons that can improve the way we engage with people. There are tips on how to be respectful, handling personal anger and communicating appropriately. The book also has a good number of insightful stories and quotes, and good information on handling conflict.

Therefore if saying no to certain people, situations or requests is proving challenging for you, get this book. You won’t be disappointed.

Over the next three weeks I will share three lessons learnt from the book. I am also working on a book summary and group learning session covering some key lessons from the book. The book summary will cover three to six key lessons, while the group learning session will allow you to show people how to apply some of the lessons from the book to their own lives. When we teach others something, we also learn it too.

 

Book Review: Life Entrepreneur by Christopher Bergen & Gregg Vanourek

life-entrepreneurThere are books you read and you power through them while others you slug through. This is one of those I powered through. What attracted me to this book was the ‘entrepreneur’ in the title, and to be honest I didn’t expect much from it. But once I started reading it,  I couldn’t drop the book. This is not your typical entrepreneurial book as it’s not so much about ‘how to create a business’ or ‘the secret of startups’. Rather it is about seeing entrepreneurship as a way of thinking, an attitude, a mindset. In other words it is more about entrepreneurial leadership.

The authors use stories from interviews with 55 entrepreneurs and other thought leaders to discuss a view of entrepreneurship that is holistic. One that doesn’t just look at the business aspect, but also the social, relational and emotional aspect of a person’s life. Each of the short stories used are quite inspiring, but at the same time thought provoking and give a more balanced perspective on the entrepreneur, a word which has attained celebrity status in our days.

The book is divided into 3 parts, each consisting of 3 chapters, making it 9 chapters altogether. While the book has just 185 pages of reading content (you can read it in 3 days), it has 3 appendices. Following is a brief overview of each chapter. Continue reading

Ten Quotes from Sprint by Jake Knapp

sprintYou might have read my book review of Sprint (you can read it here). I also curated one idea from the book which you can read here. Here are ten interesting quotes I gleaned from the book.

  1. The sprint is Google Venture’s unique five-day process for answering crucial questions through prototyping and testing ideas with customers.
  2. Good ideas are hard to find. And even the best ideas face an uncertain path to real-world success.
  3. The sprint gives our startups a superpower. They can fast-forward into the future to see their finished product and customer reactions before making any expensive commitments.
  4. You won’t finish with a complete, detailed ready-to-ship product. But you will make rapid progress, and know for sure if you’re headed in the right direction.
  5. When our new ideas fail, it’s usually because we were overconfident about how well customers would understand and how much they would care.
  6. Before the sprint begins, you’ll need to have the right challenge and the right team.
  7. When a big problem comes along, like the challenge you selected for your sprint, it’s natural to want to solve it right away. The clock is ticking, the team is amped up, and solutions start popping into everyone’s mind. But if you don’t first slow down, share what you know, and prioritize, you could end up wasting time and effort on the wrong part of the problem.
  8. Starting at the end is like being handed the keys to a time machine. If you could jump ahead to the end of your sprint, what questions would be answered?
  9. Slowing down might be frustrating for a moment, but the satisfaction and confidence of a clear goal will last all week.
  10. You can run a sprint anytime you’re not sure what to do, or struggling to get started, or dealing with a high-stakes decision.

One Idea from Sprint by Jake Knapp

sprintSprint by Jake Knapp attempts to teach us an engaging and interactive way to come up with solutions and test ideas in just five days. In my opinion the book succeeds at doing that. See my review of the book here. While the book focuses on a single technique, within the techniques are many ideas that canbe used independently. One of such ideas is the ‘four-step sketch’. The four-step sketch is a way to come up with a rough sketch for a potential solution. The four steps involved are: notes, ideas, crazy 8s and solution sketch.

  1. Notes: during a sprint you will collect lots of information and ideas. The aim of the four-step sketch process is to bring the information and ideas together to begin to create solution for the goal set at the beginning of the sprint. For the notes step, people will be given 20 minutes to go round the room and note down information which they find relevant to the solution being designed. After the 20 minutes is up they will be given an extra 20 minutes to review the information they’ve noted down.
  2. Idea: next is the idea strage, when each person will start jotting down ideas derived from all the information they collected at the notes stages. Ideas can be jotted down as doodles, headlines, diagrams, stick figures and whatever cones to mind. It does not matter if the ideas look messy or are incomplete. Another 20 minutes is used for this stage.
  3. Crazy 8s: this is a quick exercises which involves each person taking their strongest idea and rapidly sketching out eight variations of the idea in eight minutes. To do this each person divides the sheet of paper they have into 8 different sections and uses each section for sketching one variation of the idea, so that in the end the same idea has eight variations. Note that the ‘crazy’ does not refer to the idea, but rather the pace of the sketching. The focus here is on deriving usable ideas.
  4. Solution Sketch: this is the stage where everyone’s idea will be assessed by the whole group. But first each person must take their best idea sketch it out in detail in a three-panel format. This can be three sticky notes or three sheets of paper. Some tips for doing this well are: make sure it is self explanatory, keep it anonymous, it doesn’t have to look elegant, ugly is okay, good writing is important and give it a catchy title.